Researchers Evaluate Horses as Model of Human Depression

Researchers found that depressed horses behave in a similar manner to depressed humans.

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Researchers found that depressed horses behave in a similar manner to depressed humans. | Photo: iStock
“Horses’ and humans’ basic body systems and physiology are quite similar, so in many cases research conducted in one species could be translated to the other,” wrote Stacey Oke, DVM, MSc, in a recent article published in The Horse.

Some of the ailments horses and humans have in common include uveitis, cancer, and respiratory disease, among others. And according to recent study results from a team of French scientists, depression could be the next disorder studied in horses and translated to humans.

“Ethological approaches focused on animals’ spontaneous behavior in their home environments might prove useful, especially if the environmental conditions offered to animals share features with environmental conditions known to induce depression in humans,” explained lead researcher Carole Fureix, PhD, an equine behavior scientist at the University of Rennes 1 in France.

Stress at work and interpersonal stressors, for example, has been shown to cause a variety of problems for humans, including depression, Fureix said

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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